Taking God at His Word

Romans 4:20-25 is a masterful presentation of God’s plan for salvation. In this chapter, Paul is showing that Abraham is an example of how justification (declaration of righteousness before God) is received. It is received by faith alone and not by works or effort or our earning it in some way. God saw fit to design salvation this way so that no one could boast of his standing before God.

What exactly did Abraham believe? There is a debate on that, but the text seems to simply state that Abraham believed God would do what he promised him. That is, make him a blessing to all the nations.

I think William Barclay summarizes this well when he says, “It was this willingness to take God at his word which put Abraham into a right relationship with him. Now the Jewish Rabbis had a saying to which Paul here refers. They said, ‘What is written of Abraham is written also of his children.’ They meant that any promise that God made to Abraham extends to his children also. Therefore, if Abraham’s willingness to take God at his word brought him into a right relationship with God, so it will be with us. It is not works of the law, it is this trusting faith which establishes the relationship between God and a man which ought to exist.”

What are we today supposed to trust God to do for us? Notice how Paul makes the transition to answer this question in verses 24-25, “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Today, God is still the object of saving faith as in the time of Abraham, but the content of that faith is different. Today we are to take God at his Word and believe that he will forgive our sins and give us eternal life because of the work of Jesus on our behalf. Jesus died to forgive our sin and was raised to give us a new life. We, like Abraham, need to take God at his word and trust him to do as he promised. We are declared righteous by faith today just like Abraham was declared righteous by faith 4,000 years ago!

Father, I am so thankful that I am not supposed to earn a righteous standing before you. Such a task would be very disheartening since I know I could never be good enough. Thank you that you have always designed salvation to be based upon faith in your promises. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price of all sin so that such righteousness could be justly given to all who will take you at your Word!

Following Jesus with you,


Free Will and God’s Sovereignty

The whole letter of Ruth cries “free will” while being married to “God’s sovereignty.” It was the free will of Naomi and her husband to move to Moab. It was the free will of their boys to choose Moabite wives. It was the free will of Ruth to stay with Naomi and adopt her people and her God after her husband died. It was the free will of Ruth to choose to work in the fields of Boaz. It was the free will of Ruth to seek redemption from Boaz. It was the free will of Ruth’s closest redeemer to give away his right of redemption to Boaz. It was the free will of Boaz to follow through and redeem Ruth. It was the free will of Boaz to take Ruth as his wife and seek to have a child with her.

The flip side of each of those decisions is the sovereignty of God. Why? Because the fruit of the marriage of Boaz and Ruth was a son named Obed who was the father of Jesse, the father of David. It is from the line of David that Jesus, the Messiah is born!

As Boaz, Ruth and Naomi chose their path and made daily decisions about life, they had no idea what the fruit of their choices would be. They had no idea of the sovereign control of God in their lives. They saw themselves making their own choices and yet God superseded everything to ensure that his will was accomplished.

Father, sometimes as I make my daily choices, I have no idea how they all will work out in your plan for me or in your plan for others. I often can make decisions as though though they really do not matter. Yet, I choose to yield to your leadership on a daily basis and trust you to lead me and work through me. I thank you that you have given me freedom and I thank you that you are bigger than all my choices and can easily use them to accomplish your will. I thank you for being intimately in control even when I do not know it!

Following Jesus with you,


Amazing Story!

Acts 27 is truly a gripping story. The details recorded by Luke make this passage a real nail biter! This section is describing Paul’s shipwreck on the Island of Malta as he was a prisoner proceeding to Rome to speak for God.

In a previous encounter with Jesus, when Paul was almost torn to pieces in a riot, Jesus had appeared to him and told him that he would not die in prison, but that he needed to go to Rome to preach the Gospel. God proceeded to protect Paul as the Roman Commander sent 470 troops to guard Paul from those who had made a vow to kill him.

Now that he is on the ship and going through a terrible storm that lasted 14 days and in which everyone had given up assuming they would be killed, an angel came to Paul and told Paul again that he would not die but that he would make it to Rome.

The question that hits me is, “why did this storm have to happen since God had already promised to take Paul to Rome?” Why did Paul and the other 267 passengers have to endure such a horrendous experience? The problem is the text does not say!

Here again we see that even though God had promised Paul that he would make it to Rome, this leg of the journey was anything but easy. He and those with him struggled with all their might to save themselves from destruction, but it was God who protected them as they put forth their effort. We can assume that many were open to the Gospel after Paul’s predictions came true, but again, the text does not say.

Father, thank you for Luke and his careful recording of this story in Paul’s life. Paul’s faith must have been tested as he endured 14 days and nights at sea thinking that certain destruction was imminent. Yet, we see him living by faith and trusting in your promise to take him to Rome. Even so, you saw fit to send an angel to encourage him in this great time of trial.

May you help me to live in the moment and trust you every minute of the day as I do. May you call to memory your promises to me so that I may be an example of living by faith as Paul was.

Following Jesus with you,


God’s Provision

The story of Ruth is one of the most touching stories in all the Bible. In it you see real people living through real challenges. Ruth loses her husband and leaves her people to go with her mother-in-law back to the Jews and adopts the Jewish people and their God. Since they had both lost their husbands, they had no one to provide for them. In that culture they were in a very vulnerable and desperate position.

Ruth (a Moabite) made a tremendous step of faith to stay with Naomi as a foreigner. She worked hard at trying to get enough food for her and Naomi. She gleaned the leftovers of the harvest from the fields of Boaz, one of Naomi’s relatives. By God’s gracious work through Boaz, the needs of Ruth and Naomi were met as Ruth worked hard.

It is easy to read that story and not think much of it. Yet God was very active in working through others to meet the needs of this great woman of faith. But, I think we also see another example of God honoring effort. Ruth worked long hours to get just enough food for her and Naomi. If she had not worked hard, they would have gone hungry. Because of the action of Ruth, Boaz commanded his servants to protect her.  God’s protection also came from her initiative.

Faith in God should be partnered with effort. As Augustine said, we need to “Pray as though everything depended on God; work as though everything depended on you.”

Father, thank you for you intimate care of me and my family. I often do not see your active role in our lives, but I know through the examples in scripture that you are more involved in the minute details of our lives than I fully realize. Thank you for loving me enough to care about the details and abundantly meet our needs as I work hard and trust in you.

Following Jesus with you,


Remembering the Details

This morning I was struck with the wording of Ps. 9:2-3 which says, “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”

The meaning of these verses could be stated by, “I will give thanks to you, LORD with my whole and complete heart. I will lay out all the details of the marvelous works that you have done. I will be glad and exceedingly joyful in you. I will sing a song of gratitude to your name (with or without a stringed instrument), Highest or most lofty One!”

The expanded description of this passage highlights so many things that I should be doing because of God’s goodness to me. I need to be more thankful for his work in my life. I need to lay out the details of his goodness so I remember them and this will help me find my joy in God. I need to take the time to verbally express my gratitude to God because he is amazing!

Father, thank you for your overwhelming goodness toward me. May I take the time to recount the details of that goodness because it will cause me to be thankful with my whole heart. I can find true and lasting joy in my relationship with you alone.

Following Jesus with you,


Be Encouraged

Acts 23 tells us of Paul’s continued challenges as he preached the Good News about Christ. In this passage he encounters trouble with those opposed to him.  He knew the differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and was able to pit them against one another in an attempt to evade a mob. A very intense fight resulted between those parties to the point that the Roman military commander was “afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces.” As a result, he rescued Paul for a second time and brought him to the barracks for protection.

After these events it is very possible that Paul was discouraged and needed encouragement, I know I would!  That night in verse 11 is says, “the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’”

Did you notice the text says that “the Lord stood by him”? Many commentators interpret this as a vision Paul had, but the text does not say that and the Greek simple says that Jesus “stood by him.” It is possible that Jesus appeared to Paul and spoke to him so that he would press on with courage in his mission. Jesus lets him know that his current troubles would not stop him from going to Rome. God’s plan for him was not done!

As the story continues, 40 opponents of Paul took a vow to kill him but the son of his sister informed the Roman Commander about the plot. What does the Commander do? In verses 23-24 it says, “Then he called two of the centurions and said, ‘Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to aFelix the governor.’”

Isn’t it amazing how God ensured that Paul was protected and escorted to Rome so that he could testify for him? God not only protected him, but he even gave Paul a mount to ride for the journey!

Father, it is so easy to see the negative in difficult circumstances and forget how you do not miss anything going on in my life. I also can forget how easily you can work through men to accomplish your will for me. May you help me to remember this story when challenges come because you proved that you cared about Paul and were dependable in relation to your promise to him as you abundantly provided for him.

Following Jesus with you,


Blessed is the Man…

Psalm 1:1-2 were a great reminder for me this morning. This passage says, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

The words that stood out to me today are “blessed,” “delight” and “meditates.” The word “blessed” is describing someone who is in a good position. This person is “happy” or “fortunate” and the Greek translation of this passage uses the same word in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-11). This passage shows us again that happiness is the byproduct of something else. In this case it comes from delighting in and meditating upon God’s Word.

How does “delight” relate to the law of the LORD? Notice the Translator’s Handbook of the Book of Psalms says, “In translation it is important to make clear the relation between delight and the law of the Lord. This may often be done by using two verb forms … ‘find joy’ and ‘obeying.’ The first can often be the cause and the second the result; for example, ‘Because they obey the Law of the Lord, they are happy.’”

Happiness comes from finding my joy and pleasure in the will of God. I become aware of this as I “meditate” on the Word. The same Handbook gives great insight to the word meditate when it says the word means, “‘reads carefully,’ ‘studies,’ ‘pores over’… meaning intensive, careful reading and study. ..Meditates may often be rendered as ‘reading and thinking about.’”

For me to be able to carefully read the Word in this manner, I need to make time for it! Such study and contemplation as to its meaning and application to my life does not come easily. I must find time to think deeply about the Word, and find my delight in obedience because this will result in my joy.

Father, thank you for allowing me to have your Word and be able to read it and study it. Help me to understand your Word, and apply it to my life because that is where my true joy is found.

Following Jesus with you,


Abba, Father

In Mark 14:36, Jesus begins to pray to God asking him to remove the cup of his coming death and yet he concludes by saying, “not my will, but yours be done.”

In addressing God, Jesus uses the description “Abba, Father.” “Abba” is Aramaic and was the common language of the day. “Father” is the equivalent meaning of that term. Some think Mark supplied the translation and some think that Jesus said both. Either way, the meaning of these terms are significant, especially at the time Jesus spoke them in prayer. Notice what the ESV Study Bible says about this,

“Abba” in Aramaic, the everyday language spoken by Jesus (cf. Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). It was the word used by Jewish children for their earthly fathers. However, since the term in both Aramaic and Greek was also used by adults to address their fathers, the claim that “Abba” meant “Daddy” is misleading and runs the risk of irreverence. Nevertheless, the idea of praying to God as “Our Father” conveys the authority, warmth, and intimacy of a loving father’s care.”

In prayer, Jesus is expressing his trust in his loving and caring Father and his course of obedience proves it. As he is about to experience beating, torture and crucifixion for us, he proceeds to allow himself to be arrested knowing he is in the loving care of his Father who is sovereign over all things. He lives by faith in the character of his Father as he is betrayed and as he suffered for us.

Abba, Father, thank you for your authority in my life, your warmth and intimate care of me. As I approach today, may I walk in the encouragement of this truth. May I especially remember this truth as I walk through challenging times in life.

Following Jesus with you,